Using 40 samples collected in Paris, Marty Belcher's Paris Suite was recorded live in studio, with no overdubbing. The six musicians played multiple instruments or samples each, often switching between several instruments in the same piece.
Born in Gary, Indiana in 1953, Marty came of musical age in Indianapolis, listening to the “New thing” of Coltrane & company. Picking up the soprano in high school, he spent the next 25 years trying to make sense of it within the context of the European improv scene, contemporary classical and modern jazz.
For the past 20 years he’s been playing with experimental musicians in a variety of areas—electro-acoustic improv with the Unstable Ensemble, Thrash rock with the Chicago band ROPE, electronica with Colloid, noise with (D)(B)(H), percussion with Guth, and all of the above with A-RADAR-A.
Marty has expanded to sopranino, soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. He has recordings on the Family Vineyard label , Gilgongo, Passive Aggressive Records, Friends and Relatives and now Public Eyesore.
Jason Bivins is from Washington, D.C. After playing in “rock” bands throughout high school and at Oberlin College (usually some amalgam of post-punk, metal, and prog), he went to graduate school at Indiana University, where he became active in free improvisation beginning in 1993.
After playing in large ensembles, power trios, electroacoustic duos, and in solo performance, he formed the Jason Bivins Trio and, in 1999, Unstable Ensemble (which continues to exist and has recorded four albums). After moving to North Carolina in 2000 (where he teaches Religious Studies at North Carolina State University), Bivins began a long-standing association with percussionist Ian Davis, with whom he performs in a duo, in large ensembles (the defunct Micro-East Collective and the eNtet, units which performed with musicians like Dennis Gonzalez, Frank Gratkowski, and Chris Cutler, among others), and in the long-standing groups UE and the Impermanence Trio (with Richmond-based reeds player Jimmy Ghaphery).
He has recently collaborated on a project with pianist Nobu Stowe, reedist Ross Bonadonna, and sound artist Lee Pembleton.
Dr. Michael Rings holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Indiana University, and he began teaching at PLU in the fall of 2015. He teaches courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, and environmental philosophy.
Dr. Rings’ scholarly interests include aesthetics, ethics, and social-political philosophy. He has published work in the philosophy of popular music, and on aesthetic cosmopolitanism. In his free time Dr. Rings composes and plays music, collects books and records, and hikes in the stunning Washington wilderness.
Joe Stone (aka JMFS), is a musician, artist and philosopher who stumbled into improvisational music quite by accident. Musically, most of his experience stems from engineering and sloppy garage rock. He transfers this experience into UDRC by weaving percussion, sampling, and homemade electronics into one accessible interface. A few of his past musical ensembles include:
When not playing with UDRC ensembles Joe Stone walks long distances with the Bloomington Ambulators (https://ambulators.wordpress.com/), attends Indiana University’s School of Art & Design, and produces multimedia propaganda for the least offensive bid.
Tony Brewer is a poet, sound effects artist, and spoken word performer from Bloomington, Indiana. He has taught, directed, and performed sound effects for the National Audio Theatre Festival in Missouri since 2001, and has performed and written for WFHB’s Firehouse Follies live variety show in Bloomington since 2008. In 1994, Tony made Hayward Sanitarium, a horror thriller audio series he directed and produced for NPR Playhouse. Since then he has taught at Indiana University, Michigan University, and Kansas City Art Institute, and has performed with the Knoxville Opera, Otherworld Media, Mind’s Ear Audio Productions, Myth-Science Ensemble, and many other groups, from studio foley work to live film soundtracks and costumed theatre. As Roller Mortis Films, he and Chris Rall have collaborated on numerous short films, including 8 Wheels of Death, the world’s first roller derby zombie romantic comedy.
Chris Rall is a mulli-instrumentalist originally from Indianapolis, but has lived in Bloomington, Indiana for 25 years. He has played in a variety of musical genres including rock, rap, blues, jazz, classical, and avant-garde. Although tenor sax remains his primary instrument, he has picked up a variety of other instruments to supplement his sound including turntables, keyboards, no-input mixers, samplers, guitar, and even theremin.
Outside of music, Chris is a filmmaker and software developer.
The idea of using the sounds of Paris as the basis for a piece of music stemmed from waking up, pre-dawn, to the sound of street sweepers making their daily rounds.
Three years later, I returned to Paris with my Zoom H4 portable recorder & a small notebook to document the sounds. The idea of incorporating field recordings into music wasn’t new. In the classical world of Musique Concrete it had been around for years. The idea with this project (albeit, somewhat vague at first) was to approach the traditional instruments (sax, guitar, keyboard-synth, drums, percussion, vocals) with the same sonic flexibility we would apply to the samples. (Reread that—it’s key). As the bulk of the samples were non-musical in nature, many in fact, unidentifiable as to their source, meant we were dealing with an inherently extreme sound palette. As a group of musicians who had spent years pushing extended techniques & expanding the vocabularies of their instruments, this made total sense—at least to me.
But because words and music don’t always align, my description, or more precisely, the musicians’ interpretation of my description was tentative at best. We would have to literally find ourselves thru the process & see what happened. And indeed, process has always been key in how we operate & by focusing on that, I had a certain faith that the product (or results) would be ok.
So, out of the 80 recorded samples, 40 were selected. These were eq’d for a standard sonic level, and distributed to musicians Chris Rall, Joe Stone, and Tony Brewer. The original idea was for Joe to handle the bulk of the samples (as he did on our previous recording Exo, Public Eyesore Recordings). As rehearsals unfolded a surprising thing happened—all three musicians, Chris, Joe, & Tony, began simultaneously employing the samples. And, to make things more interesting, they used different technologies which ranged from low to high tech, thus providing a richer and more immersive sound. Instead of the samples simply complementing the music, the samples took on the same weight & gravity as the live instruments. This, ultimately became our musical baseline, with the samples and the live instruments merging into a single coherent sound.
Next came a peculiar form of composition, planning out 10 basic pieces (all with single word titles, more for the musicians’ benefit, than for the listeners) based upon a core sound (bells, siren, choir, etc.) that would serve as a pieces’s foundation. Then selecting related samples that could be utilized as the musicians saw fit. As it turned out, a looser approach emerged in the studio where other samples were fair game, although I cautioned about redundancy, it never become an issue. The real challenge was to to make these samples work in real time with real instruments in the confines of a studio. And that is where the true skills of the musicians were revealed.
Beyond the agreed upon core foundation sound & related samples, the entire process would be improvised, and recorded live. Good improvisors understand the process of improvisation. They listen well & can see and anticipate where the music is collectively going. These 6 musicians have been playing together for years. We have a codified methodology (perhaps another Ryder piece) that allows us to push in the same direction, or not.
Jason Bivins and Michael Rings, were brought back to Bloomington to participate in the project. Both played with us for years but, as is the reality of college towns, took jobs elsewhere. With two days of, (rather intense) rehearsals, I was walking a tightrope of telling people what to do & letting them discover it themselves. This is part of the improv process & it’s a delicate & sometimes tricky dance to execute. Fortunately, in the studio we got off to a good start.
We recorded over a two day period, repeating pieces multiple times if needed. The piece “Amen”, for example, required 4 takes and ultimately resulted in running the choir sample backwards while pitch blending it upwards to give the piece the right climax. The 10 pieces are meant to be part of a single, larger piece—approximately 1 hour in length. The beginning (a radio station going in an out of focus) harkens back to waking up to hear the street sweepers, and the end (a dead bolt slamming shut as a finale) were pre-determined to bracket the entire suite.
And while the final product is dense, feels composed, or at least constructed, the music doesn’t involve cutting things up or splicing things in. It was edited but performed live and captured in real time by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording.
As with all improvisational music, a degree of surprise is an indicator of success. This project evolved from simple to complex as musicians found ways to contribute to a collective & imagined vision. And like the music itself, how we got to the end result remains a bit of a mystery.